Supreme Court rejects loose venue interpretation in patent cases

By The SE Texas Record | Jun 6, 2017

“The High Court put a dent in plaintiffs' long-established freedom to shop for the venue of their choosing when pressing patent infringement claims – potentially dealing a blow to the Eastern District of Texas’s prominence in hearing patent cases.” 

That's the assessment made of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision by intellectual property firm Morrison & Foerster, and we hope it proves accurate. An end to our prominence in these dubious endeavors would be a good thing and might prompt us to find some more acceptable kind of distinction.

In the meantime, we should celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in favor of TC Heartland, an Indiana-based company challenging the venue Kraft Foods chose for filing its patent infringement suit against it.

Reversing a lower court ruling, the justices concluded that Delaware  (along with East Texas one of the most active patent infringement dockets in the country) was not the proper venue for Kraft's suit and that such suits ought to be filed in districts where the defendant is incorporated or has an established place of business.

The decision was just what Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton and 16 other state AGs were hoping for when they filed amicus briefs back in February.

“When a single district court hears so many cases, not because of convenience or

connection to the dispute, but because it is chosen by litigants on one side, the perception of a neutral justice system is undermined,” Paxton and his colleagues argued in their brief, citing East Texas with its 25-50 percent share of all patent infringement cases and its typical awards of  $38 million more in damages than the national average.

“Patent trolls know full well that the cost of litigating cases [here] makes it cheaper for many companies to just pay them to go away,” Paxton, et al. asserted. “That’s why it’s so important for the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court.”

And that's what it did.

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